Sunday, April 23, 2006

From Batman and his Butler to a Tragedy in Pompeii, the Library provides Opportunities to Read Together

We get to the library and Richie, 3, finds the comic books. They're in the teen section, scattered between Lindsay Lohan on the cover of Seventeen and that wierd looking kid on the cover of Mad.

We've never been to this library. It's a mile or two east of our library, which we live a block away from. So the boys are like kids in a candy store.

"Here's Robin!" Richie says, pulling out a magazine with a masked and troubled adolescent on the cover.

I check it to see if it's "PG-13." That means it has guns, scarier bad guys than usual or superhero women busting out of their shirts (more than usual.) Several don't pass muster. Also, Richie has to read every book before he decides whether he wants to read it. So we're not getting anywhere.

Johnny, 5, meanwhile, chooses 12 nonfiction books about nature, evolution and animals. Here, I find a couple books with dandelion recipes. We have a huge crop that we might as well cash in on.

My book club is reading "Good in Bed," which I request at the front desk as J.J. tries to suck milk out of my shoulder blade and Johnny and Richie run circles around us. I imagine the woman thinking, "Are you sure you don't want "Good at Family Planning"? But they had it. They have everything at the library, from Teen People to tax forms.

You can check out a novel with a vapid narrator and no sense of irony (see the young adult paperback section,) or Pride and Prejudice. You can look up something your mom doesn't want you to see, which perhaps the three teenagers huddled around the computer next to the comic books, whispering and darting their eyes around the room, were doing. Or you can write a book report.

And it's all free. You don't get those rates at the video store.

But that's not the only advantage the library has. It has so many more windows on the world. Some books are like 100 movies. Johnny and Richie love the video store, but they don't sit in the aisles and yell out trivia like, "Guess what's under the ocean? Lava!" and "Robin and the butler are friends!"

Batman's butler fascinates the boys for some reason. When playing Batman and Robin, he is their fourth favorite character to play, after B&R, of course, and the Joker, but before the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face and Harley Quinn--get it, like a harlequin?

Richie finally found three books he liked: Robin, Superman, and Supergirl.

We got to the checkout with 18 books, owing $7 in late fees, which the woman said we did not have to pay but just should be aware of. So I'm aware of that now.

Dropping off a couple videos on the way home, I wondered if people read more or less books since the dawn of T.V. The good thing about movies is you can watch them together, making comments like, "What is he thinking?" and "Get a grip, lady," whereas reading a book is a solitary act. You can talk about it afterwards, at book club, but laugh at a paragraph and you laugh alone, cry at the end of a book, and you cry alone.

But there's an exception to the rule. Reading aloud.

When your kids are little, you can curl up on the couch together, and dive into "Totally Amazing Natural Disasters."

Most haunting photo: statues depicting a family in A.D. 79 Pompeii, Italy. A volcano rained fiery ash upon the city, burying people. The ash turned to rock, and the bodies decomposed, leaving molds of the people. Archealogists filled the molds with plaster, creating tragic statues of people curled up like babies. They didn't even know they lived near a sleeping volcano. As their city was destroyed, they thought the gods were punishing them with fiery rain and a falling sky.

"That is so sad," I said.

"That is really sad," Johnny echoed.

Next we read "Robin," Richie's book.

Most inappropriate scene for a little boy and preteen audience: when Batman accuses the butler of visiting Mrs. Drake at the clinic too often.

Batman: In her vulnerable condition, she could easily mistake kindness for something else. Better cut back on the visitation, so she doesn't jump to such conclusions.

The butler: With all due respect, sir, that's not an appropriate order. It's well outside the purview of our professional relationship.

Batman: What? Alfred, I ----

Butler: Will that be all, sir?

Batman: Alfred...are you in love with Dana Drake?

Butler: Sir!

Boy reading the comic book: zzzzzzzz.

Well, I enjoyed the passage. Finally, a chance to practice my British butler accent. Even if the boys were flipping the pages to see what came next just as the butler was taking Batman to task for thinking a superhero can discuss women with his butler. Some people don't learn anything at boarding school. Highly inappropriate. Sir. Sir. Sir. For the love of God, just let me answer the door and manage the maids! Good God, Sir.

There's nothing like reading books out loud. In fact, I bet this is what people did before movies. Read to each other. Not just grownups to kids, but grownups to each other. Did they laugh and cry out loud, I wonder. Heckle the characters? Tell the butler to lighten up?

Maybe there is a book that would shed light on all this.


Anonymous mom said...

You and your brothers used to all get in the same bed at story time and you took turns choosing the book. It was a highlight for us all - cuddling and sharing an interest. I notice Erin even reads the name of the author and illustrator giving them the notice they deserve for the thrill of the read. You are such good moms!

7:24 AM  

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